NeoProgBlog, The Neoprogressive Magazine online

'Work as if you lived in the early days of a better nation.' Alasdair Gray

Welcome to The NeoProgressive, where people of all political persuasions can debate vigorously within a framework of basic American values and mutual respect -- NeoProgressivism.

VISITORS: PLEASE COMMENT! I want to stimulate discussion, not be a voice in the wilderness.

(NeoProgBlog, The Neoprogressive, The Neoprogressive Magazine, and original material © 2005, 2006.)

Monday, January 10, 2011

After Arizona, A Simple Question About The Second Amendment

The Arizona shootings are a good opportunity to reconsider the Second Amendment.

The Supreme Court's conservative majority declared in 2008 that the Constitution gives people a personal right to possess firearms, ignoring the 2nd Amendment's limiting clause, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State..." Note that there's no serious movement today to take away people's hunting firearms; politically, the fight is over whether students may carry guns at school, use of body-armor-piercing ammunition, etc. The recent Supreme Court ruling is now being used as the basis for arguments in favor of "cop-killer" bullets, fully automatic weapons, unlimited concealed-carry rights (even, in Arizona, in bars and schools), etc.

My Q: does anyone really believe the Founders considered universal ownership of military weaponry, outside the context of a National Guard unit or other "well-regulated militia," to be a human right as fundamental to human liberty as the freedoms of speech and religion? Are your Bible and your hollow-points equally sacred? (If so, what does that say about the primacy of your faith?) Or have we gone too far in the name of "gun rights," with political game-playing & intellectual bankruptcy now costing lives?

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010


Update, Sept. 8: Allah be praised, someone has an even better idea. Please support these guys.

Original post:

In the Founders' concept of the "Marketplace of Ideas," bad ideas won't find as many buyers as good ones -- so good ideas ultimately will win. Here's a plan to put that concept to work.

"The NeoProgressive" generally is not intended to take sides in passing political debates. Its goal is to look past hotbutton issues to look for ways Americans of varying opinions can join together to pursue common, truly American objectives. My focus here is ideological, not inflammatory.

But sometimes events occur that call for citizens of good will to stop merely talking about principles, and start acting on them. This is such a time.

The misguided and misanthropic pastor of Florida's Dove World Outreach Center church has announced plans to burn thousands of Korans on September 11. He's doing this despite a clear warning from David H. Petraeus, the American general in charge of operations in Afghanistan, that doing so would jeopardize both the lives of American troops and prospects for success in that war:

"It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan," Petraeus said. "Were the actual burning to take place, the safety of our soldiers and civilians would be put in jeopardy and accomplishment of the mission would be made more difficult," he said.

Of course, in America, private individuals are free to both publish books and to burn them. The Constitution guarantees free expression, including offensive expression. But, if the Founders' "marketplace of ideas" concept is correct, there should be many more right-thinking people willing to print books than there are wrong-thinking people willing to burn them.

Accordingly, the NeoProgressive is gathering pledges from people who are willing to pay the costs of printing and distributing at least twice as many Korans as the Dove World Outreach Center burns on 9/11.

I don't propose this for religious reasons. I'm not Muslim. The book's content doesn't matter; what matters is establishing that more Americans support freedom of religion and expression than oppose them, and that there are more compassionate, tolerant Americans than there are narrow-minded, intolerant ones. By causing there to be more Korans in the world on 9/12 than there were on 9/10, we will be standing up for American ideals. And, if the same news media that cover the Koran-burning also report that Americans have created more Korans than they destroyed, we might even help save America's reputation in the world's Islamic community -- and, consequently, American soldiers' lives.

If enough people show interest in this project, I'll do the legwork needed to determine the exact costs involved and propose a method of distribution. At this point, I'd just like to know who's interested in participating and how much money we may have to work with.

If you think Korans4Korans is a good idea, please send me an email at Korans4Korans at gmail dot com, with your name, email, and what you might be able to contribute to the effort (in both money and skills -- I'm a mediator and writer and would love to connect with people who really know how the mechanics of this might work). And please follow the #Korans4Korans hashtag on Twitter.

M.S. Bellows, Jr.

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Reprise: A NeoProgressive Philosophy, Collated

(Photo: Republican President and Progressive, Teddy Roosevelt.)

The central goal of this blog is not to eliminate partisanship from American government. Quite the opposite: I believe that the "center" is best arrived at isometrically, with both sides pulling hard in separate directions. But even tug-of-war has rules, and that's what this blog seeks to do: to help identify the ground rules of American political society; to sketch out a deeply American way of viewing the world that's neither liberal nor conservative but outside those two categories. NeoProgressivism includes some basic, good-government "rules of war" within which the liberal and conservative camps -- and others who straddle those two, like Libertarians and Greens -- can do honorable, honest, and (most of all) constructive rather than destructive, battle. Picture it like this: the current debate between the parties is summarized by Hannity and Colmes; a truly NeoProgressive nation would debate like William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal did before the neocons took over Buckley's party.

That's straightforward enough as a concept -- but then I was forced to actually deliver something more when, on my other, proudly partisan, explicitly liberal blog, VichyDems, a reader asked a seemingly simple question: Can you point me to a site that outlines what a progressive agenda would look like? One that is left of where the dem party is now, but right of the Green party?

Putting all the pieces of a NeoProgressive philosophy together in one place wouldn't fit into a single post or essay -- it would be a book (which, someday soon, I intend to turn this blog into). But I was able to offer my reader two things, which I'm repeating here for you:

First, I was able to refer my reader to three books that lay out what I would consider to be a progressive-left agenda. These won't satisfy conservative neoprogs -- yes, I firmly believe that true conservatives can be Progressives -- but they still fall within the parameters of the broader Neoprogressive ideal rather than being extremist or radical. They are: James Carville's "We're Right, They're Wrong" (I know, Carville's fallen to the Dark Side lately, but this earlier book is a good, fairly short summary of basic liberal/progressive political philosophy, peppered with some good Cajun recipes); Jimmy Carter's "Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis"; and the late Sen. Paul Wellstone's "The Conscience of a Liberal: Reclaiming the Compassionate Agenda."

I also was able to compile a list of links to individual posts on this blog that, taken together, lay out what I consider to be a fairly good start on stating a workable NeoProgressive philosophy:

Welcome to the NeoProgBlog

On the Proper Role of Government in a Democratic Society

A Neoprogressive Approach to the Abortion Debate

The War on Christmas

Alito and the Slippery Slope to Totalitarianism

Can't Have DemocracyWithout Knowing the Facts

Watching the Watchers: A Good Journalist Keeps Digging...

Fans of Good Government: A Good Day

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now? (Iraq)

Mine Safety

But It's Just a SMALL Hole in the Dike, Right? (Economics and Foreign Trade)

Mind-Numbing Stuff About the Fed, Money Supply, M3, and the Possible End of the World As We Know It

Gozar's Coming Ho-ome! (A soldier comes home.)

Trustbusting in the Modern Era: Not?

Alito Clearly Opposes Roe v. Wade. Why Can't He Say So, And Let the Chips Fall Where They May?

A Tale of Two Nations

Tom Delay and the Ungrateful Gerrymander

Profiles in Cowardice

How To Fail in Government Without Really Trying

Science in the Vatican

How to Fail in Government, Mental Health Edition

Yet Another "Texas Model" Federal Education Program. Yikes.

In 2002, the White House Said It Didn't Need FISA Standards Lowered -- That Existing Law Was Just Fine, Thank You.

Things Change, But the Constitution Abides

"Checks and Balances. How Quaint!"

Now HERE'S What I'm Talkin' 'Bout: Pete McCloskey

Former Reagan Official on What's Conservative...

Links Resources: The Mishandling of Iraq

That's a lot, but it covers the waterfront, from journalism to fiscal responsibility to national security and supporting the troops to religion to economics to abortion. At least it gives an overview of how one Progressive thinks about these issues, and tries to put them into the context of basic American values. More to come, especially after the Democratic Presidential primary race is resolved and I can turn my attention from VichyDems back to here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008



Friday, February 09, 2007

Attention Froomkin Readers

Link to my post on Tim Russert and "access journalism" is here. Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Troop Increases: I Told You So.

I both hate and love to say it: I told you so.

NeoProgBlog, Nov. 27, 2005: This Administration, in particular, had no and still has no intention of withdrawing substantial numbers of troops from Iraq [as they are promising]. They are still building 14 permanent bases on Iraq's sandy soil, and a permanent presence in Iraq -- to replace the airmen and other soldiers we pulled out of Saudi Arabia in capitulation to Osama bin Laden's demands and to secure a backup oil source in the event the Saudi royal family is overthrown -- is a key part of the neocon foreign policy and energy strategy. They will, of necessity, rotate exhausted, three-tour units home, but they will not willingly do more. If they do do more, it will be a capitulation to Congressional Republicans worried about their seats, and is not likely to last past next November. (Post: Bush Administration Claims Credit for Troop Reduction Plans.)

VichyDems (my other blog), Mar. 14, 2006: “President Bush vowed for the first time yesterday to turn over most of Iraq to newly trained Iraqi troops by the end of this year, setting a specific benchmark as he kicked off a fresh drive to reassure Americans alarmed by the recent burst of sectarian violence. Bush, who until now has resisted concrete timelines as the Iraq war dragged on longer than he expected, outlined the target in the first of a series of speeches intended to lay out his strategy for victory. While acknowledging grim developments on the ground, Bush declared "real progress" in standing up Iraqi forces capable of defending their nation.” [Quoting from and linking to the Washington Post]

I call bullshit. This is Nixonian politicking of the crassest, cruellest kind. The only troops coming home are those already due to do, some after two or three tours in-country.
And after the election, forces “beyond his control” will force Bush to ramp troop levels back up.... [N]o serious, well-informed person actually believes that Iraq is anywhere close to self-sufficiency, or that Bush plans to bring our troops home soon. The only reason Bush is raising our soldiers’ and their families’ hopes is to bolster Republican chances in November. And raising false hope based on self-serving propaganda is a damnable thing to do, even for a Republican politician.... (Post: Nixon Bush Promises Troop Withdrawals Just After the Next Election.)

Washington Post, December 19, 2006: "President Bush said today that he plans to expand the size of the U.S. military to meet the challenges of a long-term global war against terrorists, a response to warnings that sustained deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched the armed forces to near the breaking point. In an interview with The Washington Post, Bush said he has instructed newly sworn-in Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to report back to him with a plan to increase ground forces. The president gave no estimates about how many troops may be added but indicated that he agreed with suggestions in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill that the current military is stretched too thin...."

Frankly, I wish I had been wrong a year ago, and that Bush had kept his promise. And I'm shocked, shocked that the MSM isn't pointing out Bush's "reduce troops by end of 2006" pledge... could it be they're not fair and balanced?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Lamont Over Lieberman: A Harbinger of a New NeoProg Era?

(Substantially cross-posted from VichyDems)

Lamont won, and Lieberman -- unlike in 2000 -- displays something resembling a cartilaginous proto-spine and vows to fight on as an independent. Lots of analysis on the net (most of it insightful) and on the mainstream news (most of it completely misunderstanding the real point). I won't waste time rehashing what Atrios, Kos, HuffPo, and a host of others already are saying well, but as an early leader in the effort to identify and oust Vichys -- "starting with Joe Lieberman, of course" -- I'm proud, and have some short points to add:

1. THIS WASN'T ABOUT IRAQ. Well, in part it was, but other Democrats, even now, support the war, and while there's some opposition to them, they haven't sunk to the bottom like Lieberman has. It's about Iraq, but also about Iran, the bankruptcy bill, his unflagging support for Israel drunk or sober, etc. He actually has a decent voting record -- something like 90% of the time voting with the Dems, according to Jon Alter -- but that 10% has been on the most important issues. It does no good to be a good Democrat on some appropriations rider giving pork to a blue state but side with the Republicans on preemptive war. And a lot of us still remember he's the one who covered his ass by running simultaneously for VP and for his old Senate seat in 2000, and reportedly persuaded Gore to cave in early on the recount. So this isn't about Iraq; it's about Lieberman.

2. THIS WAS A VICTORY FOR IDEOLOGICAL, PARTISAN POLITICS -- NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT. On the Today show, Lieberman just said that Lamont stood for the "old politics" of partisan division. Well, damn straight!

Look, there are fascists and there are free French, and the fascists are wrong and the free French are right, and the Vichy -- pretending to be the mediators bridging the two -- are nothing but accommodationists without vision or values. I want an America that embraces two parties, each rooted in intellectually honest and fact-based ideologies and values, often in opposition but both committed to the success of our nation, playing by the same fair rules and respectful of the other. And I want each of those parties to play hard, because it's in that isometric tension that America finds its way through hard times. When one party is dominant, the other should act as a brake and a reality check: the two-party system as an unintended part of the "checks and balances" system. That's a major part of what I've labeled "neoProgressivism": an honest, but vigorously argued, political system rather than a tepid, accommodationist one.

The problem with Lieberman and the DLC/DSCC/DCCC crowds are that they are trying to stand in the middle of the tug-of-war and negotiate a compromise, when their role is to stand on one side and haul like hell, trusting that only by doing so will the other side be counterbalanced and something like "neutrality" or "balance" be achieved. Imagine what would happen if, in the middle of a tug-of-war contest, 1/3 of the people on one side suddenly let go and said they were tired of partisanship. The rest of their team would be face-down in the mud, and the quitters would stand there clean as whistles, sweat-free, saying, "see where conflict gets you?" No: that's where dodging the hard work gets you. Lieberman let go of the rope; Lamont grabbed the rope; the rest of the team appreciates Lamont for doing so. Simple as that.

2.5 THE HALF-JOKING, HALF-SERIOUS RELIGIOUS ANALYSIS, SUPPLEMENTAL TO NO. 2 ABOVE: LIEBERMAN LOST PRECISELY BECAUSE GOD DOESN'T LIKE BUCKETS OF LUKEWARM SPIT. Revelations 3:15-16: "I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth." Lieberman is neither hot nor cold, and he was spewed out of Connecticut's maw. Good for Connecticut. Lesson: even God wants people to pick a side -- hot or cold -- and stick with it, 'cause lukewarm spit just sucks. Other "centrist" politicians, take note: God's mad at you.

3. LIEBERMAN'S INDEPENDENT BID IS JUST A SETUP FOR HIS FUTURE JOB AS SECRETARY OF DEFENSE. He doesn't have a chance in hell of actually winning election as an independent unless the Rs rig the election against their own guy, which I doubt will happen. Lots of R money Joe's way? Sure, but only enough to help him split the D vote -- just as Rs donated heavily to Nader, not so he'd win but so that Bush would. So why's he acting all sanctimonious about his "independence"? Just as he did when he dissed Clinton's morality over a minor sexual peccadillo that wasn't 1/100th as bad as what King David did with Bathsheba and Uriah, he's portraying himself as the righteous man for political gain (and to stroke his own ego). He lost, but he can claim he lost in the name of noble bipartisanship. And it will help his career: unlike Zell Miller, he's not interested in a one-shot speech at the R convention and some book sales; he's trying to establish nonpartisan credentials so he can (a) ideally, take Don Rumsfeld's job as S.O.D. (he recently gave an interview in which he very guardedly criticized Rumsfeld but said "it's the President's decision" whether to replace him, hint hint); or, if that doesn't pan out, (b) he can work both sides of the aisle as possibly the highest-paid lobbyist (whether by that title or not) in history.

4. IF WE KEEP WORKING, THIS CAN BE DAY ONE OF THE NEOPROGRESSIVE ERA: Pundits are saying that the "liberal bloggers" will cost Democrats elections by driving the party to the left. Stop, think: what Congressional election have we won since the centrists took power in 1992? None. Zippo. Not one. All the DLC ever did was get Clinton elected -- but he's tremendously charismatic, would have won anyway against the lukewarm Bush 41, and in hindsight Clinton did a lot of harm (e.g., passing NAFTA without environmental or labor safeguards). I'll write more on this later, but the evidence is that when Democrats act relatively progressive rather than accommodationist, they win more. Everyone predicts this new direction for the party -- the netroots-driven, ideologically purer, more combative direction -- will lead to disaster. The liberal Republicans in 1964 said the same thing about the neocons who tried to reclaim that party for conservatives. I pray we never become as extreme as the neocons did, but you have to admit: the centrist Republicans of the 1960s were wrong, the "purists" in their party did succeed in taking control, they've succeeded in taking control of all three branches of government -- and, crazy as it sounds, are talking seriously about securing a "permanent majority" (in Rove's words). That's a pretty good forty-year run; not even the Raiders have managed to put together a streak lasting that long.

Now it's our turn. Kris Kristofferson wrote a great song saying, "I ain't sayin' I beat the devil, but I drank his beer for nothing, and then I stole his song." Democrats are going to steal the Republicans' songs in terms of political stratagy by moving left and actually standing for something for a change, and then they (unlike the more extreme Republicans) will -- unlike the DLCites like Lieberman and both Clintons -- hopefully are going to use our power for good, to fight to re-establish an America that works better for Main Street than Wall Street, that balances its budgets and spends its money on its own people instead of on transnational corporations and that combats terrorism by building schools and medical clinics in the Middle East the way Hamas and Hizbullah have (earning people's support) instead of just forts and embassies (which generate enmity and have never worked, ever since the Crusader States fell to the Muslims a thousand years ago).

This is a big deal. It's a good sign for the upcoming midterms, it's a wake-up call for the seven Dems in the Gang of 14, Landrieu, Feinstein, Ben Nelson and all the other lukewarmers, and more broadly, the start of a new era, not a liberal one but a neoprogressive, fairer one. I'm happy and, for all you who've supported this effort, proud. (And a little proud of myself, too: what was the first site to label this loser as "Lieberman, Joseph (V-CT)"? VichyDems! So let's avoid calling him an "I" and be sure everyone labels him a "V".)

5. KEEP GIVING MONEY TO LAMONT! He'll still need it, all the way up to the general election. I just received my first AdSense check from Google (after half a year!): $100.41. It's mostly going to Lamont (with a little to Menendez, a good first-year Dem from New Jersey who's going to have a tough time in the general election). Please do the same; you can donate here.

I'll be fully back in the saddle soon, taking aim not at the general election but at retooling the Democratic political apparatus and fighting to reestablish a political system that is both fair (no rigged electronic voting, reformed campaign finance laws, zero voter tolerance for "Swiftboating" AND vigorously diverse. And all of that before the 2008 Congressional and Presidential primaries! As far as I'm concerned, 2006 is now over. Happy New Year. Let's go to work on 2008.

Monday, April 10, 2006

More on China, and Why Bush is Disastrous for National Security

I keep writing about our own weak economic condition, how dangerous it is, and how it hands control of our country to creditor nations like China. And news is trickling out, especially from Gary Hart's new book, about how focused on China some people in the Administration are. You'd think one of those high-rollers would be able to make the link and realize that our economic reliance on China is a serious security risk, but nope, it comes down to clear-thinking pacifists like NTodd to realize, and try to communicate to people with power, that the Chinese consider economics to be part of warfare, and that the link between our economic insecurity and our defense posture overlaps even into Iraq (where insurgents are bankrupting us for pennies a day), and that Bush's deficits and American job losses are endangering us while the Republicans bloviate about "national security" in the narrowest sense.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Bush: "We Never Said There Was a Direct Connection Between September the 11th and Saddam Hussein."

From a George W. Bush speech in Cleveland, OH, March 20, 2006:

First, if I might correct a misperception. I don't think we ever said -- at least I know I didn't say -- that there was a direct connection between September the 11th and Saddam Hussein.

Yet 90% of U.S. troops in Iraq believe they're there as retribution for Saddam's supposed role in 9-11.

This one's being added to my laundry list of reasons why sane, patriotic people can be opposed to the war in Iraq. Hat-tip to Crooks & Liars.

Afghani On Trial for Being Christian

and could face the death penalty.

But it's sure a good thing we brought Democracy to Afghanistan, huh? And leaving Afghanistan to start a war in Iraq was still really wise, right?

Yergh. (h/t to Moonbotica.)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Heading Off the Upcoming Propaganda About Venezuela

Once the Administration digests the reality that it has turned the Middle East into even more of a quagmire than it was pre-Iraq-invasion, it will need to create a new enemy to distract us from our ignominious pullout and to maintain its "we'd-love-liberty-and-democracy-at-home-but-we-just-can't-risk-it- right-now" rationale for consolidating power. So who will be the new non-Middle-Eastern "Dangerous Other"? My bet is Hugo Chavez' Venezuela.

Venezuela is imperfect, and Chavez is imperfect, but compared to most other Latin American countries over the past fifty years, it's on the high end of the scale. Chavez is a sort of "Castro-lite" President who combines realpolitik (his party does seek to use its currently position in government to consolidate its control) with liberal social policies; think Karl Rove working for Jerry Brown and you'll get a sense.

During the Cold War, the U.S. didn't like South American countries that leaned socialist, because it was trying to keep them from falling into the Soviet camp. That was a legitimate concern then, because Cuba was, indeed, a serious danger to the U.S., and no wise politician would want a repeat elsewhere in the hemisphere. Today, however, there's no reason to care one way or the other whether a sovereign nation has liberal or conservative government policies -- I don't see us talking about invading Sweden, for example. Yet President Bush keeps talking down Chavez, calling him a dictator and making vague threats to unseat him in order to "free" the Venezuelan people. Why?

Well, duh. Oil. Venezuela is the largest oil exporter in South America. And Chavez, wisely raising his profile in hopes that any American coup attempts will receive immediate American media attention, has embarrassed Bush by such tricks as providing low-cost fuel oil -- subsidized by the Venezuelan government -- to low-income Americans struggling to keep their homes warm in the Northeastern U.S. (I've written about Chavez' other tactics to make friends and help South American nations free themselves from U.S. influence here.

You just know Bush turns purplish whenever his limo cruises past a Citgo station (which sells Venezuelan, not Middle Eastern, gasoline).

So Bush amps up his claims that Venezuela is a dictatorship whose people need to be liberated. To "catapult that propaganda," here's a contrary view, from someone who's been there: John Hofer, a Peace Corps volunteer with extensive South American experience, writing in the Eugene (Oregon) Register-Guard:

No one showed the least hesitation to talk about Chavez. One fellow in the Caracas metro even walked up to me and asked about him. Not waiting for a response, he said, "I hate Chavez."

A bus driver said that ordinary people get more respect now that Chavez is in office. Many offered complex opinions, citing the good and the bad, winners and losers. Many talked about disliking Chavez's tendency to talk too much, a view I share about politicians in general.

A few days later, in a heated interview on one of the private television networks, an opposition figure was visibly agitated about elements of Chavez's elections law. At one point, the interviewer asked, "Are you threatening Chavez?"

The guest responded, "No, I'm putting him on notice." I could only sit in awe, trying to remember the last time an American opposition politician showed such gumption.

If anything, some Venezuelans enjoy too much freedom. Four years after the Chamber of Commerce led a failed violent coup, those responsible have not been tried, indicted or jailed.

In the meantime, the government's prosecutor on the case was assassinated, the only major act of political terrorism in recent Venezuelan history. I can only imagine that Chavez's tolerance shows his commitment to the rule of law and to the judicial process - however slow, inconvenient and dangerous.

Hofer's whole article is worth reading. Venezuela may not be perfect. Chavez's regime may not be a model of pure democracy. (Is ours? Ask Bev Harris.) But Venezuela sure doesn't sound like a dangerous dictatorship to me.

Supplement, 3:50 pm PT: Condy Rice gave an example of what's to come just last month.

Supplement #2, 9:15 pm PT: An EXCELLENT and comprehensive analysis of Venezuela-U.S. relations by Common Dreams.

Ideology and Competence

I’ve written extensively here on what I hope becomes a bipartisan meme: that whatever size government we choose to create, and whatever we choose to ask it to do, we should demand, expect and enable it to do well. Incompetence is simply not an option in either a conservative or a liberal government.

I’ve also written about the fact that certain tenets of modern conservatism are self-defeating -- specifically, people who fundamentally believe that government by its very nature is hopelessly inept and fails miserably at everything it tries to do tend to be very bad at governing, since they do not expect themselves or others to succeed. A government run by self-fulfilling prophets of doom is very likely to fumble the ball when it comes, say, to organizing an adequate response to a major hurricane, maintaining civil order and enacting a swift return to local control when occupying another country after a war, or balancing a budget.

In that regard, it’s fun and reassuring to see that
conservatives themselves are starting to recognize
this administration’s fundamental incompetence (though they have not yet realized that their own philosophy is at least partly to blame).

Still, I have to say, no conservatives have put it as eloquently as -- ahem -- I have:

Under the current administration, the government succeeds at almost nothing it sets out to do. It spends money like a drunken 1970s Democrat, embraces global imperialism and foreign wars with the misplaced enthusiasm of a William Randolph Hearst, prostitutes itself to donors and lobbyists with the promiscuity of Ulysses Grant, and does less for the average American than Cal Coolidge. It has done almost nothing skilfully except gain office.

Or here:

[C]ontrary to the ideologies of both liberals and conservatives, the Bush administration is giving us government that is functionally incompetent and fiscally incontinent. It's the worst of all possible worlds.

I also wrote on this topic here.

So what SHOULD we expect from our government? I discussed it at length in one of my first NeoProgBlog posts, which I’ll excerpt at length below to close out this post:

7. What Government Does, It Should Do Well – Which Imposes Obligations On We Citizens To Help It Do So.

We can debate what it is we want our government to do, but we should all agree that what it does, it should do well.

This seems like a facile proposition, but it has important ramifications. There is a direct connection between a government’s ideology and its effectiveness. When the government is run by people who ideologically are opposed to government action and who doubt the government’s ability to act competently, then any action it does take will be slow, hesitant, incomplete and inadequate. Hurricane Katrina showed this kind of government at its worst. There is a direct connection between the ideology that wants to suppress the federal government in favor of states rights and personal responsibility, and Michael Brown’s Congressional testimony blaming Louisiana and its citizens for the failures of FEMA.

We should have made up our minds. If FEMA was not going to act, it should have said so early and loudly, so that the states and their citizens knew what to expect. If FEMA was going to act, it should have done so rapidly and effectively. The tepid compromise that actually occurred cost lives, hurt our nation’s morale, and undermined our faith in our government – which means it undermined our faith in ourselves. The Neoprogressive assertion that there are proper times and places for government involvement in the civil affairs of our nation carries with it the assertion that, when the government acts, it should do so boldly and well. A Neoprogressive FEMA would have stepped up to the plate and gotten the job done.

However, our expectation that our government work well obligates we citizens to help it do so. First, we must insist that government agencies be staffed by people who believe in the mission of those agencies, not (as is often the case) by people who, prior to taking office, lobbied against the very agencies they now head. There is no place, in a Neoprogressive nation, for a Michael Brown, overseeing the hobbling of FEMA, or a John Bolton, recess-appointed ambassador to an organization he believes should not even exist. Effective government cannot be accomplished by people who question the legitimacy of the very agencies we citizens have hired them to administer.

Practically, this means that we must continually lobby our President to appoint competent and committed administrators, and we must support the right and obligation of the Senate to exercise oversight over Presidential appointees. As James Madison made clear, the Senate’s right of advice and consent and the minority’s right of filibuster exist, not to frustrate the President’s right to choose his executives, or to allow the minority party to unfairly advance an ideology that failed at the polls, but to shine sufficient light on the President’s choices that he will be embarrassed to appoint anyone who is not competent and committed to the task. Neoprogressives should refuse to be drawn into debates over party ideology in executive agency appointments, but focus on competency. We should make ourselves aware of these obscure appointments, and write our editors and Senators to register our opinions about them. We should act like employers conducting a job interview -- which is what we are.

Second: if we ask our government to undertake a job, we should give it the tools to accomplish that job. No National Guardsman should have been deployed to Iraq with Vietnam-era body armor. No teacher should have to buy classroom supplies from her own paycheck. To ask government to act, then inadequately fund it, creates a self-fulfilling prophecy that government is incompetent. It betrays our citizens, it betrays the soldiers, sailors, teachers, and others who work on our behalf, and it betrays our integrity.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Oh, Gawd, Not MORE Mind-Numbing Economic Stuff!

Yes! More mind-numbing economic stuff! But it's short:

I've already warned about the government's discontinuation of M3 reporting, which will tend to conceal a particular kind of economic activity that both anticipates economic trouble (meaning most of us won't have as much advance notice as the insiders do) and can reveal who's doing semi-insider-trading that insulates them from slowdowns (meaning we won't catch the fat cats who DO see trouble coming and sell the rest of us short to insulate themselves from it).

Now the government also is eliminating the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), which provides meaningful long-term data on how real Americans, including poorer Americans, are actually doing -- i.e., a key measure of how Main Street and the Mean Streets are doing, rather than Wall Street.

But I'm just a Cassandra. Screw the regular people. It's not like they're allowed to vote anymore anyway.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A NeoProgressive Philosophy, Collated

On my other blog, a reader asked what should have been a simple question: Can you point me to a site that outlines what a progressive agenda would look like? One that is left of where the dem party is now, but right of the Green party?

I'd like to think that this blog fills that order, but I haven't yet gotten around to trying to put all the pieces of the NeoProgressive philosophy together in one place. Certainly not one single post or essay -- it would be a book (which, someday, I intend to turn this blog into).

But at the very least, I was able to surf all the posts on this site and identify the ones that, taken together, lay out the basics of such a philosophy. So, I did that; a list of those links is below.

I also referred my reader to three books that lay out a progressive-left agenda. These won't satisfy conservative neoprogs, but they still fall within the parameters of the broader Neoprogressive idea (in other words, they're left-progressive, while other people are right-progressive, but they're still progressive rather than extremist or radical). They are: James Carville's "We're Right, They're Wrong" (fairly short, political philosophy peppered with some good Cajun recipes); Jimmy Carter's new "Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis"; and the late Sen. Paul Wellstone's "The Conscience of a Liberal: Reclaiming the Compassionate Agenda".

This blog, of course, tries to point to a middle way -- an American way that's neither liberal nor conservative but sets moral, good-government ground rules within which those two camps can do honorable battle. Along those lines, I offer a ridiculous number of links to individual posts from this site that, taken together, lay out what I consider to be a good neoprogressive philosophy:

Welcome to the NeoProgBlog

On the Proper Role of Government in a Democratic Society

A Neoprogressive Approach to the Abortion Debate

The War on Christmas

Alito and the Slippery Slope to Totalitarianism

Can't Have DemocracyWithout Knowing the Facts

Watching the Watchers: A Good Journalist Keeps Digging...

Fans of Good Government: A Good Day

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now? (Iraq)

Mine Safety

But It's Just a SMALL Hole in the Dike, Right? (Economics and Foreign Trade)

Mind-Numbing Stuff About the Fed, Money Supply, M3, and the Possible End of the World As We Know It

Gozar's Coming Ho-ome! (A soldier comes home.)

Trustbusting in the Modern Era: Not?

Alito Clearly Opposes Roe v. Wade. Why Can't He Say So, And Let the Chips Fall Where They May?

A Tale of Two Nations

Tom Delay and the Ungrateful Gerrymander

Profiles in Cowardice

How To Fail in Government Without Really Trying

Science in the Vatican

How to Fail in Government, Mental Health Edition

Yet Another "Texas Model" Federal Education Program. Yikes.

In 2002, the White House Said It Didn't Need FISA Standards Lowered -- That Existing Law Was Just Fine, Thank You.

Things Change, But the Constitution Abides

"Checks and Balances. How Quaint!"

Now HERE'S What I'm Talkin' 'Bout: Pete McCloskey

Former Reagan Official on What's Conservative...

Links Resources: The Mishandling of Iraq

That's a lot, but it covers the waterfront, from journalism to fiscal responsibility to national security and supporting the troops to religion to economics to abortion. At least it gives an overview of how one Progressive thinks about these issues, and tries to put them into the context of basic American values.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Links Resource: The Mishandling of Iraq

Last Updated: April 10, 2006
When my pro-war friends ask why I think the war was disingenuously sold to the American people, and why I think it's being mishandled, I tend to rub my eyes in disbelief; it seems so obvious to me. But then, I tend to obsess on blogs, rss feeds, news sites, etc. Thankfully for the national economy, not everyone does.

Rather than attempt piecemeal explanations, it seems like a good idea for me to assemble some key documents in one place. Below are links to some good, "overview" type documents that help explain my conclusions that the Iraq War is a solution that is far, far worse than any problem Iraq posed before the war, and that the Administration is culpable for how it handled both the runup to war and the war itself. Of course, there are many more pieces to this puzzle, but this is a good "this is a football"-type beginning.

So: Want to know why I think what I think? Click away, and please keep an open mind.

Did the Administration cook the intel? In what way? Wasn't it really the CIA's fault?

Hersh, Selective Intelligence

Downing Street Minutes

But the Senate had the same intelligence the President did, and they voted for the war!

Nonpartisan Congressional Research Service memo on Congress' relative access to intel

Is the War Really Going So Badly? Why? Why Is The Iraqi Army Taking so Long To Come Up to Speed?

William F. Buckley, U.S. Has Failed in Iraq

Fallows, Blind Into Baghdad

Fallows, Why Iraq Has No Army

The Cost of War

NEJM Caring for the Wounded, A Photoessay

$1-2 Trillion Long-Term

Secret Pentagon Study: 80% of Upper Body Fatalities Would Have Been Avoided With Better, Readily Available Armor

Army Stretched to Breaking Point

Security chief says Israel may come to miss Saddam compared to Iraq now

Let's Just Do What the Troops Want Us To, How's That?

72% of Troops In Iraq Want to Come Home Within Year; 90% Believe War Is Retaliation for Saddam's Role in 9-11.

Bush on March 20, 2006: "I don't think we ever said... there was a direct connection between September the 11th and Saddam Hussein."

The U.S. military is conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq... in a way that some military intelligence officials believe may have overstated his importance and helped the Bush administration tie the war to the organization responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Originally posted: Nov. 28, 2005, and subsequently updated.
link link link link

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

More on how NSA spying hurts us in the War On Terror

Convicted terrorism plotter seeks dismissal of charges because conviction was based on warrantless NSA wiretaps:

An Ohio truck driver who pleaded guilty in a terrorist plot to attack Washington and New York yesterday urged a judge to throw out his plea, in part because he was spied on through President Bush's controversial warrantless eavesdropping program.

Iyman Faris argued that the surveillance violated his rights because it was illegal and that the government therefore could not use it to build a case against him.

When you get evidence against criminals by spying on them without a warrant, courts label it "fruit from a poisoned tree" and exclude it from evidence. If poisoned evidence was used to obtain your conviction, that conviction is overturned. If you want to put bad guys in jail and keep them there, you make damn sure all your evidence was constitutionally obtained.

I've prosecuted criminals; I know this. George W. Bush was rejected by a Texas law school and went to Biz School instead, so apparently he does not. Gonzalez, of course, has no excuse.

The Fall of the Fourth Estate, Part 1,296:


At least three reporters involved in an October 2003 Time magazine article that suggested Karl Rove was no longer under suspicion of outing Valerie Plame, and that contained Scott McClellan's denial that Rove was involved, knew at the time of the article that Rove had, in fact, outed Plame.

Public relations people spread a message without caring about its truth or falsity. Journalists dig until they learn the truth about a situation, then publicize it to the broader public to enable us to engage in informed democracy. We live in an age of PR flacks posing as journalists.

I don't subscribe to Time, btw.

Former Reagan Official on What's Conservative...

... and what's not, and the ground that real Americans should be fighting over, and the ground they should not.


This Is Not How Great Nations, or Great Statesmen, Act

Guantanamo, the War on Terror, and White House credibility:

Who's Really in Guantanamo

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Now HERE'S What I'm Talkin' 'Bout: Pete McCloskey

Pete McCloskey is a progressive Republican running against incumbent Richard Pombo, as low-down dirty crooked and antiprogressive a guy as Congress has ever seen, in California's 11th District. McCloskey is a classic California progressive, and one I'd love to see elected. My fuller take on McCloskey can be found here, in a parallel universe, but the important thing is to visit McCloskey's website here.